Roberta Green Ahmanson
Dreams Become Reality
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education … . You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship … . In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.
And what we worship makes a difference in who we are and what we do in the world. Proverbs 29:18 says this: "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint."
We live in a time when we are "casting off restraint" and "perishing," as the King James Version put it, because we have lost touch with the prophetic vision, the vision of the New Jerusalem. Scholars talk about the "de-mystification" of reality in the West. By that they mean that a materialist worldview has captured our imaginations. God and his vision are comforting lies. As the writer of Proverbs knew, matter is not the ultimate reality. So, we seek other ways to meet a real longing. We work and work to buy more and more things. Shopping is legitimate 24/7; any laws to restrict this are considered oppressive. James Davison Hunter explains: "we invest enormous resources and energies to encourage people to engage in "materialistic" consumption and spend nothing comparable on encouraging them to take their civic, public, and political—not to speak of religious—responsibilities seriously."
And we, as a culture, avoid reality and deaden the longing inside however we can—with work, with sex, with drugs, with alcohol, with distraction. In July 2011, the British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home. She was 27 years old. Famous for drinking and drugging, the winner of five 2006 Grammy Awards was ultimately declared to have died from alcohol poisoning, her blood alcohol level more than five times the drunk driving limit. Perhaps her Novello Award-winning hit, "Rehab," described her inner vision:
The man said, "Why do you think you're here?"
I said, " I got no idea
I'm gonna, I'm gonna lose my baby
so I always keep a bottle near."
. . . .
They tried to make me go to rehab but I said, "No, no, no!"
Drugs and alcohol aren't the only escapes our culture offers. There are multiplayer online role-playing games, one part of the video gaming business that the December 9, 2011 Economist said is the fastest-growing form of media. The global market has grown by 60 percent since 2006, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the source for the Economist report. Asians, particularly South Koreans and Chinese, are among the most dedicated users. For example, a 2007 New York Times report found that 30 percent of South Koreans under 18 are at risk for Internet addiction. In response, their government has set up 140 counseling centers in addition to treatment centers at 100 hospitals and even the Internet Rescue Camp.
On his blog, Leadership Journal editor-at-large Brandon O'Brien speaks to the longing of our Korean friends when he writes that the Bible instills in us an imagination "that helps us look beyond our own experience." The Bible, he says, calls us to imagine, as the prophets did, a godly future. And then he comes to Jesus:
Jesus calls us to an even more demanding act of imagination. He stood in the line of the prophets … . "The day is coming," they had said … . He says, "The day has come"… . Jesus invites his followers to imagine that the kingdom of God is at hand, and with it have come all those promised reversals. If I may be so bold, it appears that the imagination was Jesus' main target.
The danger here, for the video-gamers, the dream-losers, according to the Psalm writer, isn't just wasting time. No, the danger is much deeper. It reaches to our notion of what is real about ourselves and our world. Psalm 135:15-18 explains:
The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear,
nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
We become what we worship. Evidence of the poverty of the secular vision can be found in the histories of the young British citizens who have joined the Islamic State. Raised in the prosperity of the West, they chose a more compelling, if false, vision. Glasgow-born Aqsa Mahmood chose to go to Syria to become an ISIS bride. Would her choice have been different if the West had offered a convincing vision? Would Amy Winehouse be alive today if she had had a different vision? Whatever pleasures video games provide, do they offer a vision, a dream, to build a life on?